Over on the Cohousing-L group, Sharon Villines (also of our group) and Mac Thomson recently had some important thoughts to share about building a community and customization. Though in reference to cohousing units for sale, I believe this is a valuable consideration for any multi-home construction project, whether for sale or for rental.
"...you will find that interior modifications (except perhaps leaving something out or unfinished) will both extend the time for construction and the cost for everyone. Building 35 unique units vs building 35 that are all similar except in size or number of bathrooms means all your cost savings will be gone. Literally gone. Construction will take longer because workers and supervisors will have to double check plans while building, stock a greater variety of materials, and tear things out and redo them because no one looks at the plans."
"Tell people to renovate after everyone is moved in. No delays."
"Exterior modifications will probably bring all those same problems plus more. They will require extra construction plans and possibly re-permitting. Down the line it increases maintenance and repair costs for those extensions or elaborations. Those units will use more common space than other units and possibly do things like block sunlight to other units. Should that unit pay more for roof replacement or painting if it is extended another 10 feet?"
"One of the things that I learned after living in cohousing is why standard condos are standard. All similar units can be proportionately priced and condo fees and repair costs divided equivalently."
Mac Thomson added:
"From our experience building at Heartwood Cohousing, I would agree with Sharon. Do not allow customization of any kind. Customization leads to more potential construction mistakes, increased costs for everyone (not just the customizers), and a longer construction timeline."
"If possible, create homes that are flexible enough for modifications and customizations AFTER move-in. For us, one of the main opportunities of that kind was to include unfinished basements, which about 2/3 of the households have since finished in the 20 years since move-in."